Textile firm faces closure after thefts

MASERU — Over 600 employees at Hippo Knitting Factory might lose their jobs after thieves struck twice in the past two weeks and got away with sewing machines and garments worth M200 000.

An assistant manager at Hippo Knitting Factory, Kos Wang, told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that the company had already sent home about 400 of these workers after the burglaries on April 15 and April 17.

“Two weeks ago suspects broke in and took machines and more than 14 rolls of fabrics. This affected our production resulting in us cancelling some orders,” Wang said.

He said they suspected that some of their employees could be have masterminded the thefts by providing inside information to the thieves.

The company would be forced to close shop if the problem of burglary which started last November persists, he added.

It is not clear when Hippo Knitting would recall the suspended employees.

“We have no choice but to close down. We have already been forced to cancel some orders because we are unable to operate at full capacity due to the thefts,” Wang said.

The company produces shirts, T-shirts and track suits mainly for export to the United States.

It also supplies Pick n’ Pay, Foschini and Edgars in South Africa.    

Acting police spokesperson, ‘Montolo Mothibeli, confirmed the incidents.

She said Hippo Knitting management came to report that they had suspended 50 people from work whom they suspected to have been involved in the thefts.

The company also asked the police to release some suspects who were supposed to be taken to court.

“They said the suspects would be taken for disciplinary hearing at work,” Mothibeli said.

She said the suspension of some employees from work was jeopardising their investigations.

But a frustrated Wang said they had submitted video clips of the theft incidents to the police but nothing had been done so far.

“We printed pictures of the suspects from the video clips from the time they came into the factory and when they were leaving,” he said.

Both incidents reportedly occurred between 1am and 2am.

Wang said in November last year they failed to fulfill an export order after more than 1 000 garments were stolen from the firm.

He said they found a jacket, step ladder and a huge knife near the premises fence after the recent two incidents which could have been used by the thieves.

“They broke the back windows and entered the factory,” he said.

Hippo management said they had reported the matter to the Lesotho National Development Centre (LNDC), who own the premises, to improve the security perimetre fence.

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